VIP gambling reclaims Macau casino revenue throne


macau-vip-casino-smokingMacau’s VIP gambling market continued its resurgence in the second quarter of 2017, outpacing mass market growth by a factor of four.

Figures released Monday by Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) showed the special administrative region’s casino operators enjoyed VIP baccarat revenue of MOP 35.85b (US $4.46b) in the three months ending June 30.

The figure is up only 1% from Q1 2017’s VIP gambling total but up an impressive 34.8% from Q2 2016’s MOP 26.6b. The VIP share of the overall Macau market’s Q2 revenue improved to 57% from 51.5% in the same period last year.

By comparison, total mass market gaming revenue (including slots) fell 2.6% sequentially but gained 8.1% year-on-year to MOP 27b. Of this sum, mass market baccarat generated MOP 19.7b, up 5.7% year-on-year. Mass market baccarat’s share of the overall gaming revenue pie fell to 31.3% from 36.1% in Q2 2016.

Slots revenue followed a similar trajectory, falling nearly 5% sequentially while rising 17.2% year-on-year to MOP 3.1b. The number of slot machines in operation at the end of the quarter was up 1.2% to 16,204.

Macau’s surging VIP numbers will likely take a hit once the calendar flips over to 2019 after local legislators affirmed plans to phase out smoking at VIP tables. Last Friday (14), the Legislative Assembly voted 24-8 to approve the amended Tobacco Prevention and Control Law, which will require casino operators to set up new smoking lounges by January 1, 2019.

In October 2014, Macau casinos’ mass market gaming floors prohibited smoking except in designated smoking lounges, while smoking was allowed to continue in VIP gaming areas. The following year, Macau’s Health Bureau announced that it intended to phase out the smoking lounges in favor of a total ban on smoking in all public indoor areas.

This spring, Macau legislators reversed course and said the smoking lounges could stay. However, they announced that new lounges would have to be built in VIP areas, and smoking at VIP tables would be phased out over time. As with the mass floor lounges, no gaming will be permitted inside the VIP smoking lounges.

Following Friday’s vote, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng said the government continued to believe that a total indoor smoking ban is inevitable, but still a long way from reality.